But love should be easy, right?

When you set boundaries with someone, both people grow. -Sara Wald-

When I say love isn’t supposed to always be warm and fuzzy, what do I mean?

Before I can answer this question, I have to explain what love is not.

Love Is Not…

Cruel.
Abusive.
Manipulative.
Lying.

Love may not always be warm and fuzzy, but it is decidedly none of the above things.

But does love hurt?

Can our love actually hurt someone? Can someone we love hurt us? Unfortunately, yes and yes. Let me explain with a few examples…

When I have to tell my son he can’t go to a party he’s been looking forward to for weeks because he was disrespectful, it actually hurts my heart.

When a person breaks off an engagement because they know the other person has more growing up to do before getting married, it causes pain for both parties.

When an adult child tells a controlling mother that he is changing his phone number and not giving her the new one because her incessant texting and calling is disrupting his life, a little part of him dies when he sees her tears.

These instances feel cruel, but are they?

It feels cruel to break off an engagement or limit someone’s contact with us. Sometimes healthy boundaries feel cruel, especially to the people being reigned in.

I guarantee that my son thinks I’m the meanest mom on earth when I have to set limits.

Here’s another way to look at it…

Is it cruel to teach your children that there are consequences for bad behavior while they are still at home, rather than letting them be taught those same lessons by a harsh world?

Is marrying someone knowing that it may not work out really saving anybody any heartache?

Is it kind to allow an overbearing parent to disrupt not only your life, but the lives of your spouse, children, coworkers, and friends?

Love shouldn't hurt.

Love shouldn’t hurt…

If you Google the phrase “love shouldn’t hurt” you find a myriad of quotes against domestic violence. And every one of those quotes are true.

As soon as you set out to hurt someone else, your action ceases to be love. And sometimes, although we don’t mean to be hurtful, our carelessness causes unnecessary pain that isn’t good for anybody.

But sometimes, love can be very uncomfortable.

The key is the intention behind the action. Did you think about it before you caused the hurt? What was your reason? Did you perform the hurtful act because you wanted to cause pain and gain control, or was pain a very unfortunate side effect?

I’m not talking about abuse in any form. There is never an excuse to physically, sexually, spiritually, or emotionally harm someone else.

I’m talking about the natural consequence of healthy boundary setting, and the reality that even those coming from a place of healthy love can cause hurt feelings and disappointment.

Growth hurts

I grew five inches in the eighth grade. Five inches! I grew so fast you could almost see me getting taller right before your eyes.

I still remember the pain in my legs that year. It kept me up at night. It felt like my bones were being stretched. It was excruciating!

Growing our character has a similar effect. You can’t grow as a person, physically or emotionally, without some growing pains.

What if love hurts you?

Pain is an important signal that something in our lives needs to change. If you feel physical pain, it is an indication that you have an illness or injury that requires attention.

If a relationship is causing you emotional pain, it means you need to evaluate the cause and address it. Love yourself through the pain, and try to determine how you can grow.

Sometimes, this means modifying or ending the relationship causing the pain. And sometimes it means that we aren’t responding well to a boundary set against us.

Boundaries lead to growth

When you set boundaries with someone, both people grow.

Boundaries determine where you end and other people begin. A boundary is simply an outline around your identity. Therefore, every time you set a healthy boundary, you come a little closer to knowing yourself completely. The better you know yourself, the healthier you become.

Whether it relates to our personal space, your time, or another relationship, where we set our boundaries communicates a lot about who we are. A person with little or no boundaries is hard to get to know. They are usually stressed out and distracted. They flit from one harried activity to the next, trying to be all things to all people.

When you set a boundary for someone else, you’re trusting them with a little bit of your identity. You are saying, “This is who I am. This is what I value. This is where I’m at.”

An emotionally healthy person will respect those boundaries. However, if you’ve set a boundary in an area where someone needs to grow, they may feel hurt.

Just because someone feels hurt doesn’t mean you don’t love them.

It simply means this is an area in which the person needs to grow.

Whether or not he or she chooses to learn from the experience is beyond your control. He can choose to dig deep and reflect on their hurt, and find the true source of their pain (which isn’t actually you, assuming your boundary was justified). Or he can choose to blame you, and thus stay in his place of pain without any growth.

The other person’s choice is not your fault

When I say love is not always warm and fuzzy, I’m in no way excusing abusive behavior. Abuse is in its own category, and has nothing to do with love.

I’m talking about the natural discomfort of personal growth. I’m talking about the unavoidable pain of vulnerability. I’m talking about Redefined Love.

Related Links:
Redefining Love
For the Sake of the Kids
Toxic Relationships
Boundary Basics
Make Your Own Family
How do I redefine love?

Published August 26, 2019

Copyright © Redefining Love 2019

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